Bagyong Sendong a wake-up call to be more aggressive in green thinking

Dubai – The Emirates Environmental Group (EEG) joined in solidarity with the more than 2,000 Filipinos and other expats in the UAE who participated in the Hakbang Buhay 2012 (Walk for Life) held in Safa Park last weekend for the benefit of typhoon victims in southern Philippines.

Typhoon Washi which ravaged the island of Mindanao last December 16 claimed more than 1,000 lives with hundreds still more missing and affected more than 27,000 families who remain in evacuation centers as their houses were swept away by flash floods.

There were several factors which contributed to the calamity. Some survivors said ravishing mud and huge logs brought about by deforestation which triggered the landslide crushed the residents. Others added it was a disaster that was waiting to happen as the Philippine government allowed thousands of families build houses on the edge of riverbanks and that there was no early warning system on the ground.

The sense of grief over the lost of family members, the displacement of homes, the loss of livelihood, and the lack of basic necessities as a result of the flash floods brought about by Typhoon Washi are immeasurable but the human tragedy could have been made preventable.

Back in the UAE, it is good and highly commendable that we engage and cooperate with relief and rehabilitation works such as the ‘Walk for Life’ but our efforts will be more worthy if we take big strides for the environment. One of these is to implement, on a national level, more stringent but practical environmental regulations to ensure environmental protection and make remarkable improvement in lowering our carbon footprints, which is recorded to be one of the highest in the world.

With the failure of the United Nations Conference of Parties (COP 17) in Durban, South Africa last year to forge a binding agreement to set a limit on worldwide CO2 emissions and substitute the Kyoto Protocol, it has become incumbent upon independent governments to make conscientious efforts in lowering their CO2 emissions.

Recent scientific studies show that by 2050, global temperature will increase from 2 to 3 degrees Celsius. With this scenario, the majority of the world’s population especially the people from developing countries will experience grave climate change at a larger scale and greater intensity.

Last year, we also witnessed heavy flooding in China, a massive earthquake and destructive tsunami in Japan, volcanic explosion in Chile, forest fires in Arizona and New Mexico, severe drought in East African region, tornadoes in the US, and fish and bird kills in various parts of the world. Summers across the world have also become hotter than ever with temperatures in the UAE going above 50 degree Celsius. These are all strident wake-up calls from Mother Earth that we must take heed.

We need to be more aggressive in promoting green thinking and sustainable lifestyle among our residents. One area that we need to improve on is proper waste management. Consider for example the estimated 500 million canned beverages consumed every year in the UAE. Out of these, only 5% are sent for recycling as compared to a world-wide average of 63%. If we increase our average, we put less pressure on our environment and consequently we lower our carbon footprint.

On a wider scale, we need to mount pressure on local and international policy makers and business decision makers to create practical and sustainable solutions to global energy needs with the aim of conserving our finite resources and preserving the environment.

We can join environmental organisations like the EEG to educate ourselves on environmental issues and to take part in various campaigns that promote a cleaner and healthier environment. We can use as a springboard the Earth Day celebration in April and organise a global coalition of environmental, inter-faith and civil rights groups that will take action in the next UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio +20) which is slated in the middle of the year.

The UAE is host to 202 nationalities, technically more than the entire membership of the UN. If each of us will become an environmental activist and take to task our respective governments to take care of our environment, we will make great strides in giving justice to those who have fallen victims of environmental disasters.

Mrs. Habiba Al Marashi is the Chairperson of Emirates Environmental Group (EEG) and Board Member of the United Nations Global Compact. She can be reached at +971 4 3448622 or (email) eeg@emirates.net.ae (Press Release)

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